I love animals…. So I am thinking about volunteering at the County Shelter…& thinking…thinking. I like the warm, fuzzy idea of walking dogs, petting cats, feeding rabbits…. It’s the Dark Side that scares me. The stark reality is that unwanted cats & dogs are euthanized at the shelter. Of course, volunteers aren’t involved with the actual pulling of the plug, but just the thought of all those innocent creatures needlessly dying tugs at the ancestral Jewish Holocaust in my heart.
The Sacramento County Animal Shelter is a newly built state of the art facility. It had no sooner opened its doors in October 2009 than its budget was slashed due to a County deficit of $118,000,000. Staff was drastically cut from 57 employees to 29. The facility was designed to house 1,000 animals, but now has staff for only 450. And insufficient staffing means that the number of animal deaths go up. The shelter takes in 15,000 animals a year, but now, less than half of them will get out alive.
I had attended the Volunteer Orientation just before the axe fell & was all gung-ho to help out. And then the funding dried up & I jumped ship. How could I volunteer for a seemingly lost cause? How could work with animals who might die?
Well, the irony is that when something seems like a “lost cause,” it often turns out to be a cause worth fighting for & pursuing. The cats, dogs, bunnies & other animals at the shelter are still going to need help regardless of the harsh budget cuts.
And yes, a lot of those critters are going to die without ever having a loving home. But it’s like, what if I had a human friend or family member who was dying? Would I just coldly shrug my shoulders & think, “well, she’s dying — no point in going to see her again. Waste of time & money to bring flowers — she’s toast.” NO! Of course I would not think that!
So it is for all the dogs & cats who may or may not make it at the shelter. Here is what a friend wrote to me: “Go to the shelter…they [the critters] need to have all the connection in the world while they are there and you…you become a better person because of what they do for you…and you will never be asked to put them down…volunteers are not a part of that…. It is S/M [Stephen Ministry]* for animals…same as for people…they need you….”
Another friend, who volunteers at the shelter, said this, ” I do what I can — which now is cleaning cat cages and feeding the animals, usually on Sunday morning, which is the slot that is needed right now — and I can’t worry about what I can’t do. I volunteered ‘cuz I got tired of crying at all the PSAs about abused and neglected animals. It is contrary to my nature to get up at 6:30 in the morning even to have fun, but the animals are appreciative and so are the over-extended staff. It’s about the starfish that is saved, not about the ones that aren’t. And I come home and hug my own kitties.”
And indeed, it is unconditional love that it’s all about. If a dog or cat is adopted, that’s totally cool & cause for celebration. And as for the ones who aren’t, they will have the joy of being patted & loved & hugged by a devoted volunteer before they leave the planet. They deserve to have that. We ALL deserve to have that.
And yes, my cats would certainly get many, many extra hugs each day.
I’m still “thinking” about volunteering; hopefully the love in my heart will win out over the fear in my brain.
Sacramento County Animal Shelter:
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